Meet the Startup: AzuKo
Prototype made by one of our Product Design students
In this series of startup profiles, we speak to the people behind the startups that provide real-life design challenges to our students. Today, we speak to Jo Ashbridge, founder of architecture charity AzuKo.
Jo, can you tell us a little about your charity and your current team?
Architecture charity AzuKo is working to end housing poverty in Bangladesh and the UK by co-designing housing and infrastructure, delivering construction training, and supporting communities to understand their housing rights.
AzuKo works with vulnerable communities – the homeless, landless, those in extreme poverty – to improve living conditions. The charity offers low-cost, low-tech building improvements that make a dramatic difference to people’s lives. Most importantly it is the communities themselves that lead the design and construction, from start to finish.
We’re a small team of 4 staff (2 in UK, 2 in Bangladesh), and a Board of 8 Trustees. We work with around 30-40 volunteers throughout the year.
What design challenges have you supplied to Experience Haus?
We set three briefs. Looking for support to:
- Create a meaningful user experience for an event
- Better understand the market for a new course/income stream for the charity
- Review and provide recommendations to help shape our new website
What did the individual student/teams of students manage to produce for you?
- Ronnie helped us design the evening event, which was to celebrate AzuKo’s 4th birthday. His work looked at attendees’ experience from the invitation, to the moment they walked in the door, the flow of the evening, and followup. He highlighted potential pain points for us to address, and opportunities we could capitalise on. He also acted as a facilitator for group conversations on the night.
- Sylvie’s work helped us understand appetite for the course, and expectations from potential participants (through personas). The service blueprint was particularly helpful to understand all the touchpoints, and what we would need to prepare for each stage. It certainly gave us confidence that there was a real interest in attending our humanitarian architecture course.
- Maya and Adeola examined our current website, what worked well and what could be improved. The overall aim was to improve user flow, and ultimately encourage more online donations. Maya’s work brought together her graphic design and branding expertise to improve the way we tell our story. Adeola researched ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’ from charity website’s generally to improve navigation.
How have you been able to implement the outputs?
- We held the event in 2018 off the back of Ronnie’s design help: https://azuko.org/news/celebrating-4-years
- We created the course ‘Designing with dignity’ and hosted our first cohort in Bangladesh in summer 2022. https://bit.ly/azuko-dwd-2022-brochure
- We are still developing our website. We plan to launch late 2023/early 2024.
What did you enjoy most about working on a project with Experience Haus?
We really believe in UX as a way to better understand our customers and communities, and design to meet their needs – whether this be how we operate, fundraise or deliver. We co-design; it aligns with our ethos.
It is a structured way for volunteers to contribute to AzuKo i.e. they have a specific brief, mentored throughout, and always meet their deadlines.
It is relatively light touch from our side, as volunteers are supported by Experience Haus. As a small charity we appreciate this.
Where do you see the company in 5 years?
AzuKo is a small but mighty charity. We’ll be celebrating our 10th birthday this year… and we’re looking forward to the next decade of impact. Ultimately we want to continue serving those in acute housing poverty, and to reach even more people in 2023 and beyond. We’re building a fairer world.
Find out more about AzuKo:
Submit a Design Challenge for an Experience Haus student: https://experiencehaus.com/submit-a-project-brief/